Foam Rollers: Why Are They in the Gym?

By Kevin Pansky, PT, DPT

I’m sure you’ve seen a foam roller in the gym lately. Just in case you haven’t, a foam roller is simply a cylindrical piece of extruded hard-celled foam, which can vary in densities. There are many different application techniques, which are simple to use.

The use of foam rollers is based on the concept of acupressure in which pressure is placed on specific surfaces of the body. The use of foam rollers has progressed from an acupressure approach to self-massage.

The roller should be used to apply pressure to sensitive areas in muscles-sometimes called trigger points, knots, or areas of increased muscle density. The idea is to allow people to apply pressure to injury-prone areas themselves. The roller is usually used to apply sweeping strokes to the long muscle groups like the calves, adductors, and quadriceps, and small directed force to areas like the TFL, IT Band, hip rotators, and gluteus medius.

The feel of the roller and intensity of the self-massage should be properly geared to the age, comfort, and fitness level of the person using the roller. There is no universal agreement on when to roll, how often to roll, or how long to roll, but generally, techniques are used both before and after a workout. Foam rolling prior to a workout can help decrease muscle density and promote a better warmup. Rolling after a workout may help muscles recover from strenuous exercise.
One of the nice things about using the foam roller is that it can be done on a daily basis.
How long to use the roller is also determined on a case-by-case basis. I usually allow five to 10 minutes for soft tissue work for both pre- and post-workout routines.

Foam rolling is hard work that can even border on being painful. Good massage work, and correspondingly good self-massage work, may be uncomfortable, much like stretching. Therefore, it is important that you learn to distinguish between a moderate level of discomfort related to working a trigger point or tight muscle and a discomfort that can lead to injury.

General Rule of Thumb: When you are done rolling, you should feel better, not worse. And the rollers should never cause bruising.

For continued pain free exercising Foam Rollers can be ordered at www.waterandsportspt.com or other sporting goods provider(s). If you have further questions or need further instruction please don’t hesitate to contact your Physical Therapy or Exercise Specialist today!!

About the Author



Todd Durkin, MA, is a world-renown trainer, coach, author and motivational keynote speaker who trains dozens of elite, high-profile NFL, MLB, and MMA athletes, including two Super Bowl MVP’s, one NFL League MVP, Olympic gold medalists, Heisman Trophy winners, and MMA champions. Todd is a 2-Time Trainer of the Year, the 2017 Jack LaLanne Award recipient, the 2018 Canfitpro International Presenter of the Year, a member of the Under Armour Training Team, and a Top-100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness.

Todd was a featured trainer on the popular TV show, NBC STRONG, which is now airing on Netflix. His award-winning gym, Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, CA, is a Top-10 Gym in America and his 3 best-selling books, Get Your Mind Right, The WOW BOOK, and The IMPACT Body Plan, have both changed thousands of people’s lives. If you would like to get motivated and inspired now, you can pick these books up at www.Amazon.com, or if you would like a signed copy, please purchase at www.ToddDurkin.com/
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